One of the biggest things San Diego Chargers fans are looking forward to as the season begins is seeing what rookie linebacker Manti Te’o can do in this defense. However, they may not have to wait another week.
Te’o participated in resistance running on Wednesday but was still held out of team practice. Te’o played just nine snaps in preseason and hasn’t practiced since spraining his right foot in the preseason opener on August 8. The injury was considered minor at the time and was expected to force Te’o out for only a week. It’s been four weeks now and Te’o still hasn’t returned to practice.
Though he has still gotten his mental reps this past month, Te’o missing four weeks of practice and nearly the entire preseason has to have hurt his progress. Te’o, like any rookie, needs real-game reps that can’t be duplicated in practice, or in his case, watching from the sidelines. The biggest obstacle Te’o must overcome is the ability to get off blocks and make the play, something that didn’t happen in his nine snaps of NFL game action and probably hasn’t improved since while sitting out.
The Chargers certainly shouldn’t rush him back, but also need to be concerned with the healing speed of their prized rookie. Recent injuries to Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal and Corey Liuget appeared more serious and happened after Te’o’s injury, but they’ve all since returned while Te’o remains out.
If Te’o is a no go, Bront Bird will take his place. However, the Chargers need all the help they can get. In San Diego’s upcoming Monday night matchup against the Houston Texans, the inside linebackers will have the tough task of slowing down one of the league’s best rushing attacks. Arian Foster may be ailing with calf and back injuries, but the Texans still have one of the better backup running backs in Ben Tate to lessen the load.